When the Leopard Pen Gate opened on Monday 23rd December, Minja, Jacominja and Emma were about to face life on their own, in the wild. Each of them had been fitted with a GPS tracking collar which regularly takes a new GPS location and transmits the new data back to us early each day. Each collar also has a VHF transmitter allowing us to track and find them on foot too. There was a huge amount of work that went on in the build up to this event and there is still much more to do. This is their story so far, and we will continue to keep you posted with their progress in the future.
Minja left the pen at the first available opportunity using the nearby road to explore the area and unfortunately we didn’t receive an update from her collar until the 27 December 2013. On the 29 December we spent the entire day looking for her and still had no good sightings. From the data sent to us from the GPS collar, we learned that on 30 December she moved from CCF land onto a neighboring farm briefly and then back onto CCF land. We finally got the first proper sighting of her on 4 January 2014 on CCF land. On 5 January we found her again and fed her a large meal because we hadn’t yet had any confirmation that she had made a kill, however she did not look thin! Overall Minja seems to be doing well and is definitely independent, but we will continue to monitor her closely to ensure her well-being.
After the gates opened, Emma decided to stick around for a few days until she finally decided to leave the pen on 26 January 2013. From Leopard Pen she moved to an area relatively close by and we were able to find and feed her on 28 January. However, we spent the whole of New Year’s Eve looking for her and unfortunately were unsuccessful. According to the GPS data from her collar, she moved onto the neighboring farm on 1 January 2014 and stayed until 2 January. On 3 January, Emma found us. We were about to drive through a gate, and she suddenly appeared behind the vehicle. It’s likely that she heard the feeding vehicle and had been following us for some time. We took the opportunity to move her back into Bellebeno, our re-wildling game camp to an artificial waterhole where we also fed her. She had to follow the car for about 2km so she earned her food for the day. The next day, we found her nearby where we left her as she had made her first confirmed kill! As soon as we approached, she picked up the kill and carried it off but we are quite sure it was a steenbok. On 6 January we found her yet again on another kill, which was also a steenbok. We are very happy with Emma’s success in this release, as she has already made two confirmed kills. We will continue to monitor her closely, but have high hopes for her future in the wild.
|Emma on her first steenbok kill|
|Emma on 6 January 2014, photo by Patrick Viehoever|
|Emma on her steenbok kill on 6 January 2014, photo by Patrick Viehoever|
Like Emma, Jacominja decided to hang around in the enclosure for a few days before venturing out. On 26 December 2013, however, she left and moved to one of CCF’s other farms. Incredibly, on 28 December 2013, we found her on her first (known) kill, which was an adult male duiker. For having been out of the enclosure less than 48 hours, it’s impressive that Jacominja had already made a kill. On 30 December we found Jacominja again and decided to go ahead and feed her in case she was struggling to make a kill. We are teaching all our interns how to radio-track and on 1 January, one of our Dutch interns, Marianne, tracked Jacominja and found her. We decided to feed her again, just in case. A couple of days later, we found her on other kill, which was a young warthog and then again on 4 January, we found she had killed a steenbok. On 6 January she moved but we found her and again fed her. Jacominja is clearly doing well on her own in the wild with three confirmed kills, but like the others, we will continue to monitor her closely just to ensure she is coping well with her new life in the wild.
|Jacominja on 1 January 2014|
|feeding Jacominja on 6 January 2014|